Only Death is Quiet

Germany's Digital Hardcore: The Last Believers in Turn It Up!

Though he's said that "Everything German should be destroyed!"--one of ATR's best singles is "Deutschland (Has Gotta Die!)"--Empire is ein Berliner to the core, and positively Wagnerian in his gift for bombast. "I am not officially a resident in any country, which makes it difficult for the police to control me," the would-be public enemy said in one interview. Millennial exhaustion (or is that exhausting millennialism) may have taken over the depressingly escapist pop world, but Empire aims to be an old-fashioned uebermensch, set to "Hunt Down the Nazis!" and pierce the "utter tedium" of the music industry while he's at it. He's a classic Angry Young Man, one you can easily imagine muttering "Fuck cappuccino capitalism!!!!" as he passes a Kreuzberg cafe on his way back to the squat.

Meaning, his politics are a ball of confusion. Not only does he jack the tired iconic juice of the RAF like countless Baader-fuckoff gangs before him, he marches in line like a true kraut-punk street solider. In that radical lefty tradition, any societal ill--racism, anti-Semitism, meat eating, paying tort, "fashion-sucking"--meets with equal outrage and calls to arms. Take, for instance, the entire DIR stable's rabid hatred of...ravers? "Take a power saw and fuck all female ravers thru their fuckin' tits!!!!" reads a liner note to Killout Trash's "Signe Says." So much for DHR's usually female-friendly aggression.

But ATR's "Raverbashing" is more than just a flip-off to a "sold-out" scene. This multiracial crew--Crack is from Swaziland, Elias is Syrian, Empire's socialist grandfather died in a Nazi camp--seems genuinely disheartened by the rave nation's failed rainbow coalition promise. At heart, Empire's a cynical idealist who just can't give up the ghost. Why even bother yelling about anything if you don't think it will make a difference? I just wish his rhetoric weren't so simplistic and hyperbolic that only a 12-year-old could take it seriously.

Sigh. It's not easy to be a revolutionary anymore: should anarcho-punks bomb MTV or "subvert" it with their videos? Can you be both a fight-the-power anticapitalist and a Capitol-ist at the same time? In any case, when Atari Teenage Riot opened for Rage and the Wu-Tang at the Meadowland last August, the trickle-down effect of glib calls to "start the riot" were clear: soon after their set, a bunch of white guys marauded through the stadium, goosing girls, ripping out seats, and fighting security guards on their way to the mosh pit. High fives, dude--we stuck it to the Man! What did Empire think of the spectacle? My guess is that he shrugged it all off. After all, Amerika is just a wounded paper tiger bleeding Coca-Cola blood!!!!@#$%!!

Atari Teenage Riot, EC8OR, and Shizuo play Irving Plaza November 20.

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